The End Is Here: An Ivy Style Jeans Post

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Warning: denim

Hard to believe that the season of glad tidings a good cheer was just two weeks ago. Has anyone else noticed an above-normal level of persnickety punctiliousness in what is considered acceptable to wear? Recently discussions have included rep ties, signet rings and critter stuff, and there’s certainly no shortage of self-appointed fashion marshalls eager to punish sartorial transgressions.

Well now we truly reach the biblical “end” of days as we turn to the topic of jeans. You’ve been warned.

Recently I discovered a new cut of jeans and was thinking about sharing it here. I know the jazz-Ivy cats in the UK who dig vintage Americana are bully on five-pockets in denim and corduroy, but what about old school trads and young neo-preps here in the States? So yesterday I put it to our Facebook group, asking “Do any of you guys wear jeans?” The topic garnered quite a bit of debate. My favorite comment was from a guy who said that jeans are workwear and therefore should only be used for work, though he was willing to make an exception to pickup games of baseball.

May I suggest we all band together and bring this before the United Nations to set up militias in every corner of the globe and give out tickets to anyone caught wearing jeans for puposes other than labor and baseball.

Anyway, I’ve mentioned here before that when dressing casual sometimes I’ll do this Ivy-cool-chic thing in which I’ll wear, say, jeans, bit loafers, OCBD and cashmere sweater (Warning: trying this at home may result in sartorial and spiritual discomfort). I had a couple pairs of Levi’s in the 508 model, which I discovered a couple of years ago. You get a tapered leg, a cool nod to the ’60s, but not a hipster low-rise. When I decided to replace one of them, I went to my premium denim boutique (JC Penney, Herald Square, NYC), but none of the current 508s appealed. The sales clerk directed me to a number I hadn’t heard of, the 541, which was apparently introduced last year.

I like it, and am sharing it here as some of you might like it as well.

This graphic says the 541 has a straight leg, while other descriptions from Levi’s say it’s slightly tapered. The latter is correct.

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The 541 is billed as an “athletic cut inspired by athletes,” but who knows or cares what that’s supposed to mean. Here’s the gist of it: you get a traditional pair of jeans from the legendary American brand in a cut that’s more comfortable and a tad hipper than the iconic 501. By hipper I mean that there’s a slight taper to the leg, while overall the jean is more comfortable in the seat and thigh, so you won’t be self-conscious about your posterior. And the rise is full by jeans standards, without creeping up into dad-jeans territory.

I can’t guaratee you’ll like any of the color options, but hunt around. It seems like certain retailers carry colors that are different from those offered at levis.com. I found a charcoal pair that works great with my Ivy chic gear as well as my tweed jackets. And I think the khaki-colored ones in the top image would look great on you younger guys when paired with, say, a white buttondown, navy sweater, and burgundy penny loafers. Or even scruffier, with a “Take Ivy” kind of vibe.

As always, take it or leave it. — CC

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49 Comments on "The End Is Here: An Ivy Style Jeans Post"

  1. I’ve been committed to the 501 in indigo and khaki for years and generally disregarded their other styles as being too “hip.” However, I like the sound of this fit and am afraid I might have to buy a pair or two (three). Thanks for encouraging my bad habits, Christian.

  2. People keep telling me this is a clothing blog.

  3. I think it’s more than that, Christian. It’s a safe space for those needing protection for the fashions of today.

    Also, it appears that Levi’s has a tapered 501 as well. Shut up and take my money, jean people.

    http://www.levi.com/US/en_US/mens-jeans/p/181730024

  4. Maxim de Winter | January 7, 2016 at 11:06 am |

    Dungarees? Most unacceptable!

  5. Ward Wickers | January 7, 2016 at 11:17 am |

    “Dungarees? Most unacceptable!”

    Thank god I’m a rebel. I wear them all the time. Jeans with OCBD, surcingle or tartan belt, Quoddy boats, and, if cold, a Shaggy Dog.

  6. Whatever one thinks about wearing five pocket trousers of any sort, I have often noticed that people wearing five pocket trousers have a very difficult time reaching into their pockets to get their wallets out.

    It might be a good idea to avoid standing in line to pay for anything behind a five pocket trouser wearer and to avoid going out for lunch with a five pocket trouser wearer unless you are planning to pay for their lunch as well as your lunch.

  7. No idea what you’re talking about. Wallet comes out much easier than in flowing, buttoned flannel trouser, for example.

    Perhaps these people you’re behind in line have other problems.

  8. I’ve been wondering about these. Saw them at Macy’s Herald Square not long ago, but didn’t have time to try them on. I had been on a 514 kick, but have found that they are a bit tight around my “athletic” thighs and posterior. I may have to give these a shot. Merci!

  9. It’d be great if they offered white. Perhaps this spring.

  10. NaturalShoulder | January 7, 2016 at 1:16 pm |

    I am not anti-jeans, but I find khakis and cords more comfortable for casual wear. I have one pair of jeans which are the RRL brand I wear if I want something different, or if I am attending an event in which calls for jeans (I live in Texas). I may check out the 541s as I probably need to add another pair to the closet.

  11. Charlottesville | January 7, 2016 at 1:20 pm |

    Thanks, Christian. While I generally wear a suit or sport coat and tie, I too occasionally trot out a pair of Levi’s with a Shetland or cashmere sweater, or even a sport coat. As long as the jeans don’t have images of animals that I have not shot, stripes of unattended universities, nor emblems of clubs to which I do not belong, I hope that I don’t shock my fellow commenters. I have always been a 501 guy (white in summer, standard indigo otherwise), but these look promising (although I am not quite as svelte as you). I recall a tan cord version from my youth that I may need to see about duplicating, but it looks like 505s are still the only classic-rise option for cords.

  12. Grey Flannels | January 7, 2016 at 1:24 pm |

    They’d look great with wife beaters.

  13. Sid Mashburn garment-dyed Levi’s 501 in Stone 2.0. Have 2 pairs. Amazing.

  14. I do wear jeans, but I’m very well supplied these days. No new jeans needed.

    My apparel-exclusionary rule, similar to the “work-wear” rule above, pertains to sneakers. I regard wearing sneakers on the street as a category error – like walking around in swim-fins or ski boots.

    My last pair of Converse (last of the US-made items, bought in the mid 90s) lasted me more than 15 years, because I wore them only at the gym.

  15. Charlottesville | January 7, 2016 at 2:18 pm |

    Cameron — I too avoid sneakers as street wear. Same for sweatshirts and other gym gear. However, I make a summertime exception for my Sperry topsiders, in spite of the fact that they are made of white canvas and have rubber soles and are, therefore, “sneakers” within the meaning of the Act. I can’t really offer a justification, other than to say that I also wear LLB camp mocs and brown leather topsiders even if I am neither camping nor boating. Just noting a bit of my own inconsistency, but it is one I am comfortable with. Please note in my defense that that none of these item sport pictures of whales.

  16. I wore khaki’s all through grade school and high school as part of two different uniform sets. Therefore, I didn’t own a pair of jeans until I was in college when a girl I was dating thought it was weird I didn’t own a pair. I don’t have anything against jeans (now or in the past) and they are certainly better for most weekend activities around the house (you people clean gutters in a pair of cords?) My personal jean preference is Bean’s “Double L” jean. I call them my “dad jeans.” I had a pair that lasted ten years just get replaced by a new pair after the originals developed a couple holes in the crotch. I don’t like the 541 jeans above because I’m not a fan of the dark finishes.

  17. Ward Wickers, Dude | January 7, 2016 at 2:48 pm |

    Okay, so now that everyone who wears jeans has been outed by this post, let’s get down to the real business at hand. How many of you jean-wearing, Ivy-trads are cowboys? Come on, fess up. Who rides the range, sleeps by a campfire, and kisses his horse good night?

    See the Catch-22 you are in? If you admit to being a cowboy, you ain’t no Ivy-trad; if you admit to not being a cowboy, you have been wearing your jeans without having the right to wear them, ‘cuz you ain’t a member of the Cowboy Club. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Nice one, Christian! You’ve got everyone in a Mexican Stand-Off. And, I know, I know, that term is “problematic.”

  18. Chewco L.P. (Offshore) | January 7, 2016 at 2:54 pm |

    I don’t own a pair of jeans YET but I’m soon to make a purchase. Maybe when the moon’s holding water, and the planets neatly align.

    Since this place is so full of sartorial rules (read: guidelines), I need to know:

    (1) Is the general guideline to buy a cheap, disposable, work-wear, soon-to-be-paint-stained pair of trousers?

    (2) Or is it better to invest in a more expensive, dressier pair. Maybe a pair from RRL (as mentioned above) or some Japanese raw selvedge denim that go for like +$500 a pair?

    (3) The FEC rule, combining (1) and (2), and paint your jeans yourself?

    I think someone on ivy-style once made a reference to this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpHU6TkqWjs

    It certainly comes to mind. Denim is actually quite complex, or, like the American Psycho card scene, as mundane and bland as a business card…

  19. When my younger associates sport around in Diesel or True Religion jeans, I pull out an old pair of Carhartt jeans that I acquired many years ago in a different phase of my life. Gentlemen’s fit and classic cut full rise, tapered leg 5-pocket denim pants. They even call them dungarees, not jeans! If you think you’re oblivious to the work-wear image, then go full throttle. I’ve been accused of being a contrarian.

  20. Henry Contestwinner | January 7, 2016 at 3:42 pm |

    The trigger warning was traumatic in and of itself. Can’t you find a better way to protect my feelings from your patriarchal, heteronormative, Eurocentric hegemony? I think I feel an EEO/sexual harassment complaint coming on….

  21. Thirty some years ago, I went through a crisis, the “turning 30” crisis. I went on a physical fitness campaign, bought a new Camaro, a pair of Jordasche designer jeans ($30 then), and even a pair of neutral painter’s pants. Fortunately, I found the disco shirts and neck chains, completely repulsive.

    I wore the jeans only once or twice, then gave to charity. Horrible, uncomfortable pants. The painter pants, I used for chores and such. The Camaro, I drove for 9 years. Since it was a base model, the lines were uncluttered and classy. It came with whitewall tires, and I bought wire caps for it. It looked like a poor man’s XKE. I had to be the only guy in the world with a wire wheel WW Camaro.

    Since then, I haven’t looked back. No more jeans, or sporty cars, either.

    Cheers!

  22. Jeans are like a cheap hotel, No Ballroom!

  23. Chewco L.P. (Offshore) | January 7, 2016 at 5:03 pm |

    @Wriggles,

    What do you drive now? An Austin-Healey? A 1970 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost/Corniche?

    I’m an MTA man myself.

    Anyway, five-pocket cotton trousers > “jeans.”

  24. Henry Contestwinner | January 7, 2016 at 5:05 pm |

    Denim trousers? Why stop at trousers?

    http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-08-14/ralph-laurens-all-denim-suit-for-business-dudes

    PRL had a faded denim suit available last year, but alas! It seems they were all bought up.

  25. Chewco L.P. (Cayman) | January 7, 2016 at 6:22 pm |

    @Henry,

    How about Andrew Lauren in the French Riviera wearing a 3-piece Ralph Lauren Purple Label denim suit and matching denim espadrilles? I wanna be *that*

    http://www.ralphlauren.com/us/en/magazine/andrew-lauren-riviera

  26. Ward Wickers, it wasn’t the cowboy who was the original market for and wearer of Levi’s: it was hardscrabble pick&shovel miners. So if one isn’t grubbing for gold, basically by hand, one is a mere poseur in denim

  27. I suspect that the debate here is divide along age lines. For younger guys like me, an fine pair of jeans are the new chinos so long as the are discrete and fit well. Jeans are the next logical step in the progression towards a more casual mode of dress.

    Also, I would like to point out that up until post-WWII chinos were relegated to work wear too.

  28. *a fine pair. Mea culpa, everyone!

  29. Henry Contestwinner | January 7, 2016 at 7:37 pm |

    Chewco,

    It’s the same suit that I linked (no surprise there). I wonder: are Ralph Lauren denim suits wash and wear?

    Andrew Lauren, with his matching espadrilles, is precious, isn’t he? I’m just happy that he didn’t wear an unauthorized necktie*—if he had, then the commentariat would have been baying for his blood!

    *Unauthorized necktie: a necktie displaying a pattern to which the wearer has no authentic connection. Examples include regimental stripes for a regiment one was not a member of; university colors of a university one did not attend; crests for organizations one is not a member of; animal motifs of animals one does not hunt. According to one portion of the commentariat of Ivy-Style.com, such ties are worn only by Grade-A posers [sic].

  30. I had given up on Levis due to inconsistent fit, twisting seams, vanity sizing and a lack of tapered options for the athletic legged person – everything they made seemed to be was dad-jean frumpy or low-rise sausage casings. I defected to Wrangler (cowboy cut MWZ47), despite being unenthusiastic about the colours and wishing they were slimmer below the knee.

    However, I also recently came across the 541 (cycling ‘commuter’ edition), and tried a few pairs on. I had to size down to a 30 waist (a tape measure will read me at a 33), but they are dark indigo, fantastic, have a proper rise, no weird bunching in the lap and a pleasing taper down to the hem.

    The little bit of elastane(!) in the fabric means that they waist, seat and knees don’t bag out after a few wears, which is nice as well. I’m not sure about the standard model, but the fabric, belt loop construction and stitching all seem to be of much higher quality.

  31. Denim? Oh, folderol. I tried a couple pair of LLBean recently during my holiday travels. Wasn’t thrilled as it is hard to beat my classic fit RL Chinos. I agree with the sentiment concerning all the recent cant fashion policing. Some of the recent fulminations of the sartorial Dutch Uncles are amusing. While I do believe the ancient landmarks are oft vitiated by today’s younger generation, it’s to be expected. As conservatives in our style we can only hope to stand athwart history and shout “halt!”

  32. On that iconic label…are those two fellas whipping them horses? That can’t be right, can it? Dang, them gold miners were mean. As for the leg tubes, I don’t know…when L/S closed up and moved out of SF for overseas, and when the 501 button front shrink-to-fit did neither, I just lost interest. Have no feelings about them now, one way or the other. Certainly not cheap anymore. Enjoy if you can, I s’pose. When Billax sports a pair, I’ll know they’re back.

  33. If you have to have just one pair–which you do, certainly, at the very least–Levis has their LVC line, which are (mostly) raw indigo selvedge denim sorced from Cone Mills in Greensboro, North Carolina, and modeled from archival patterns.

    The 1944 or the 1955 are probably the most “Trad” (a high-waisted relaxed fit and a traditional straight leg, respectively), but I go for the 1966, which have an 11 3/4 rise and a tapered leg.

    They don’t come cheap ($260), but Levis is having a sale where they’re 50% off. Add that to a 20% discount you get for joining their mailing list, and it’s a steal.

  34. Me thinks the ladies protest too much.
    Ivy nicked English styles and wore them incorrectly, English post modernists (or whatever title John Simon’s band of merry men march under) stole it back … in turn wearing/interpreting that incorrectly.
    Who’s right? More than likely the person that doesn’t bother to read the comments.

  35. Roger C. Russell II | January 8, 2016 at 3:29 am |

    The 508 is a great cut. Levi’s just has too many options as far as I am concerned. Another style the has a nice taper from knee to ankle is the 513. The 513 has a really nice light tan color option that is reminiscent of what Old School guys refer to as Wheat Jeans which is very much a part of the Ivy League look of the early and mid 60’s. However, if you have about $200.00 to blow on jeans you can still acquire the original Levi’s California 519 Bedford cord that is the actual pant people call Wheat Jeans. Go to the Levi’s web site and search their Vintage section and you will find the 519. Also, J. Crew makes a Bedford Cord that is no doubt a product designed to mimic the original Levi’s product. I think J Crew calls theirs a 770.

  36. Roger C. Russell II | January 8, 2016 at 4:53 am |

    By the way I own eleven horses and ride a lot of range. I wear Levi’s, Wranglers, Oxford Cloth, and Stetson hats. They all feel good to me.

  37. Bags' Groove | January 8, 2016 at 4:53 am |

    I cannot live with the shame. I have to out myself.
    I’ve worn Levis most of my life, 501s, blue or black. I currently have eight pairs, in various states of wear, with a couple of virgin reserves, just in case the eight should suddenly go at the knee.
    There, I’ve said it. The relief is enormous.
    As for jazz-Ivy cats in the UK who dig vintage Americana, I am of the school who thinks it an unnecessary waste of money. Leaves me more money to spend on jazz…and tiddlywinks.

  38. Ward Wickers, Dude | January 8, 2016 at 10:52 am |

    Oh, Bags — that is, indeed, shameful.

    There is only one cure: A year on an Oregon dude ranch. You’ll be sleepin’ in the bunk house, ridin’ horses, shootin’ six-guns, and ropin’ cattle, It’ll be a real cow-poker’s life. The only music: Country Western, of course. Just think about it, Tammy Wynette and Garth Brook morning, noon and night. Yee-Haw!

  39. I’m an old man. I haven’t had a pair of jeans or “dungarees” since I was a teenager, more than 50 years ago, and then it was only the one pair, and they weren’t very comfortable. To my recollection, in the Ivy heyday, adults simply didn’t wear dungarees. It is impossible–impossible to the highest degree–to imagine my pipe-smoking father in them. Children wore dungarees. I do remember that white jeans (see the “Take Ivy” photos) were popular with surfers in the early ’60s (as were blue Topsiders and rugby-striped shirts). My everyday trousers are, and always have been, are baggy and battered chinos, or what Cheever called his “wash pants.” I must have a million pair of them.

  40. It should be remembered that Brooks Brothers sold Levi’s jeans in the 30s, and that they were one of the first merchants on the East Coast to carry what was then an exotic item of Western wear.

    Recall this article from a few years back: http://www.acontinuouslean.com/2012/11/13/levis-x-brooks-brothers-c-1937/

  41. Blue jeans have their place. Tan colored jeans (worn as some sort of weird nostalgic campus picture book costume) don’t.

  42. So what’s the fuss all about, boys? No harm in having a couple pairs of jeans in one’s wardrobe. I have come to like Polo jeans and have three pair — all bought on sale. They fit like a dream, and I love ’em. BTW today (casual Friday) I’m wearing Ralph Lauren tweed jacket and gray flannels, Turnbull & Asser checked shirt and pocket square, a Peter Elliott tie, and Santoni tassel loafers (brown suede!). I am (most-assuredly) the best-dressed Managing Director today at the Investment Bank where I work.

  43. Charlottesville | January 8, 2016 at 12:10 pm |

    Reggie – Sounds like a great outfit (although no doubt a couple of the purists among us will get the vapors over your English shirt and possibly darted jacket). However, unless things have changed considerably since my dealings with investment bankers in the 1980s and 90s, being the best dressed among one’s fellows on casual Friday is surely faint praise. The same was true at my old law firm in Washington as well. I was generally the only one wearing a jacket and tie on Fridays, unless there was a client meeting or a funeral. Today, in a fairly casual rig of tweed 3/2 sack, cuffed khakis, OCBD U stripe, repp tie, argyles and A&E pennies, I am conspicuous by my overdress here in what is still considered a fairly traditional place. Oh well, we can give them something to aspire to.

  44. Bags' Groove | January 8, 2016 at 3:40 pm |

    @Ward
    There are two small problems with your very helpful Oregon dude ranch scenario, a) I haven’t been on a horse since I was a kid, too long ago than I’d ever mention here, and b) subjecting me to Tammy Wynette or Garth Brook would be the worst possible torture you could inflict upon this lifelong jazzer.
    The great irony is that a couple of my closest pals, now passed on, were both dedicated C&W fans. So a precondition of me accepting an invitation to their houses for dinner was that on no account would C&W be played, something they both, naturally, totally forgot about after the fourth or fifth glass.
    And finally, they’d not approve of my jeans on the ranch, as I only wore blue in my youth. Since when black, or the grey they soon go, has been my style. Wear ’em with everything. You really don’t have to be young to wear jeans, especially when you have the body of a Greek god.

  45. @Richard – I’ve wanted to get my 501s from Sid, as well – could be cheaper at JCP, I know, but I’ll pay a little extra to get it from the man in Atlanta.

  46. @ Chewco L.P.

    My cars are on opposite sides of the spectrum, a 78 Eldorado, and a 85 LeBaron convertible. Very inexpensive to maintain, both cars are low mileage survivors, bought from senior citizens more senior than myself.

    Wife drives a RAV4. She dreams of a Bentley. Someday…

  47. Thanks for sharing.

  48. ” I’ve mentioned here before that when dressing casual sometimes I’ll do this Ivy-cool-chic thing in which I’ll wear, say, jeans, bit loafers, OCBD and cashmere sweater ”

    That is basically the look I mostly wear, except the bit loafers. I don’t like bit loafers. Beefroll weejuns and variants all I do with loafers. I substitute or add tweed jackets in the winter for the rough Los Angeles 64 F cold.

    Also

    I am under 30

    Not from East Coast USA

    Live in Los Angeles.

    Sometimes I like to fantasize being a real life character from Metropolitan (Whit Stillman film) but, that isn’t me.

  49. “Bit of stretch for extra mobility” is an instant turnoff. Real jeans are supposed to hurt real bad until you’ve paid the dues and worn them enough for the them to reward you in return. I’m guessing, at this point, most men don’t really have the opportunity for that to happen.

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